Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pinus parviflora

While at the nursery I mentioned last week, I also had a chance to take a few snapshots of a good-looking Pinus parviflora, or Japanese white pine.

Identifying pines always intimidates my students in the beginning, but it's a straightforward task. Pine needles grow in little bundles called fascicles. Depending on the species of pine, the fascicles house groups of two, three or five needles. So, the first thing one does, when faced with an unknown pine species, is count the number of needles per bundle. This narrows down the list of possible candidates. In this case, Pinus parviflora has five needles per fascicle, as does Himalayan pine (P. wallichiana), limber pine (Pinus flexilis) and white pine (Pinus strobus), to name a few.

To further narrow the choices, one must assess the needles themselves, checking the rigidity and length. These needles are quite stiff and are about two inches long -- significantly shorter than the three other aforementioned pines.

Of course, another characteristic unique to Japanese white pine is the spare, small habit of the tree. This is a decidedly more delicate plant than the bigger white and Himalayan pines. Finally, the stomatal stripe that I mentioned previously in regards to Douglasfir, is quite prevalent in this pine species.

Parvi- means 'many' and -flora obviously means flowers. Thus, this plant flowers profusely. Though the flowers are inconspicuous, this characteristic is notable for the subsequent profusion of pine cones.

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